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Job 20:1 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,
Ver. 1. Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said ] "If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest," Proverbs 29:9 . Christ piped to that crooked generation, John mourned to them, but all to no purpose; absurd and unreasonable people will never be satisfied or set down, say what yon can to them, such is their pertinacy and peevishness. Job had uttered himself in such passionate expressions as might have moved stony hearts, Sed surdo fabulam. He had set forth his own misery, begged their pity, made an excellent confession of his faith, every word whereof had its weight, each syllable its substance, Ubi habent fere singulae voces aliquid ponderis (Merl.); he had lastly terrified them with the threats of God’s sword; but nothing would do. Zophar here, though he had little to say more than what he had said, Job 11:1-20 , yet he takes occasion from Job’s last words, though full of love, to roughly hew at him again, and makes as if he were necessitated thereunto for his own and his fellows’ necessary defence. Vatablus thinks that Zophar here maketh answer, not to the preceding words, but to those in the 12th chapter, where Job had complained that wicked oppressors live commonly in greatest peace and prosperity. Whatever it is, Zophar henceforth will say no more; either he had said what he could, or was satisfied with Job’s reply in the next chapter; or, lastly, quia lusurum se operam credebat, as Mercer observeth; because he thought he should lose his labour, which no wise man would do.
Job 20:2 Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for [this] I make haste.
Ver. 2. Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer ] q.d. Whereas I had thought, O Job, to have spoke no more to thee (for I see I do but lose my sweet words), thy last comminatory expressions have altered my resolution. So nettled I am that I must needs interrupt thee. And yet think not that I shall speak whatsoever lieth uppermost; for I have dipped and dyed my words in my thoughts, which do now prompt me what to answer, and bid me make haste.
And for this I make haste ] Lest I should forget the particulars of thy speech, whereto I am to answer. Munster rendereth it thus, Et ob id promptitudo mea est intra me, as if Zophar had boasted of his ready elocution, as in the next verse of his ripe understanding. Some render it, For this I delight in answering (Lavat.).
Job 20:3 I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer.
Ver. 3. I have heard the check of my reproach ] Zophar conceived himself disgraced as well as menaced by Job; and this kindled him. Some are of so testy a nature, saith one, so skittish and unquiet humour, that a little offensive breath, a disgraceful word, blows them up into a rage that will not be laid down, without revenge, or reparation of their credits. Job’s reproofs were by this man construed for reproaches; and what was spoken to them all he applied to himself. It appeareth that he was sick of a Noli me tangere, when being touched so gently, nettle like, he stingeth him who handled him.
And the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer ] This I shall do with reason and understanding, not with passion and recrimination. Spiritus Dei nec mendax, nec mordax; meekness of wisdom is a fruit of God’s Spirit; by the which, and not by his reasonable soul only, Zophar seemeth to himself to be carried on. And surely they are holy truths all along that he uttereth, but wrested and misapplied as to Job, whom he will needs have to be wicked. Interim observemus, saith Lavater, Meanwhile let us observe that these things, sc. the state and portion of the wicked, the greatness and suddenness of their punishments, is therefore by God’s appointment so oft propounded and pressed in this whole book (whereof this is almost the sole argument), that we might be right in that point; fear to offend, and not fret at the wicked man’s prosperity, which is but momentary. The Tigurines translate this clause thus, Tametsi me conscientia hic consolabitur, Albeit herein my conscience shall comfort me.
Job 20:4 Knowest thou [not] this of old, since man was placed upon earth,
Ver. 4. Knowest thou not this of old ] Whether Zophar intended his own conscience or not before, he here appealeth to Job’s; and secretly taxeth him of going against it, or, at least, of gross ignorance; knowest thou not this, which every one knoweth that is not a mere novice, and which is proved by the examples and experiences of all ages? to wit, Malis male esse, that it shall be ill with the wicked. This is a generally received maxim, and the histories of all ages do plainly and plentifully confirm it. Hinc collige, diligenter observanda esse, &c. (Merlin). Hence we may well gather, that God’s judgments against wicked persons are to be diligently observed out of the histories of all ages, both divine and human.
Since man was placed upon the earth ] Heb. Since he placed man upon the earth, viz. in that earthly paradise, the garden of Eden, planted for purpose of man’s pleasure; where, nevertheless, he stayed not one night, as some gather from Psalms 49:12 , but soon by his sin became like the beasts that perish ( pecoribus morticinis ), that die of the murrain, saith Junius, and so are good for nothing. Cain for like cause was cast out, the old world drowned, Sodom and her sisters consumed with fire, &c. There cannot be one instance given to the contrary of that which is here affirmed, viz.
Job 20:5 That the triumphing of the wicked [is] short, and the joy of the hypocrite [but] for a moment?
Ver. 5. That the triumphing of the wicked is short ] Heb. That the shouting of the wicked is from near, it is of no long standing, but like a blaze of thorns, that is quickly extinct, or as a bubble in the water, that is soon down; the pleasure of sin is but for a season. Huius sententiae exemptum habes in Goliath, saith Brentius here. An example of this sentence we have in Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:42-44 ; and another in his countrymen, the Philistines, who had twice beaten the Israelites, and taken the ark, 1 Samuel 5:1-12 , but this triumph was soon at an end; and so was that of the Jews when they had crucified Christ, and now danced upon his grave, as the proverb is; but he arose in despite of them, and set up his trophies. Say that the triumph of the wicked should last as long as life, what is that to the Infinite? Punctum est quod vivimus, et puncto minus. But wicked men commonly die before their time, as Solomon phraseth it, Ecclesiastes 7:17 ; that is, by an untimely death, they live not half their days, Psalms 55:23 . God cuts them off, that others may live more quietly; and while they live, their comforts are not sincere, but mixed with many molestations. Little knoweth the world where their new shoes pinch them, as that Roman said. One little drop of an evil conscience can trouble a whole sea of the wicked man’s triumphs.
The joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? ] Zophar had a strong conceit that Job was but a hypocrite, one that was wicked before God in heart, notwithstanding his fair pretences and professions of piety, and should therefore be led forth with the workers of iniquity, Psalms 125:5 , as cattle led to the slaughter, or as bulls led to the altar, with garlands on their horns, and music by their sides, Acts 14:13 , but suddenly they feel and fall under the murdering axe. Such is the hypocrite’s joy, and Zophar would he should know so much, being sensible of this that himself was the party in speech; since his prosperity had ended in misery, and God had dashed all his comforts.
Job 20:6 Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds;
Ver. 6. Though his excellency mount up to the heavens ] Though he conceit himself, and would have others hold him to be, more than a man, and to accord him divine honour. If his pride ascend even up to heaven, so the Vulgate rendereth it. If his gifts ascend up to heaven, so the Septuagint: and indeed hypocrites are ever lifted up with their gifts, as some Corinthians were with their waxen wings, 1 Corinthians 8:1 , being enriched in all utterance and knowledge, and coming behind others in no gift, 1 Corinthians 1:7 , yet were they babes at best, and carnal, walking as men, 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 ; their religion was more in notion than in motion; they had the spiritual rickets, which, having grown big in the head, &c.; as the moon, they increased in light, but not in heat. In which respect, also, and for her external privileges, Capernaum is said to be lifted up to heaven, Matthew 11:23 ; and the temporary, to taste of the heavenly gift, to partake of the powers of the world to come, Hebrews 6:4-5 .
And his head reach unto the clouds ] Aequalis astris gradior, saith he in the poet (Sen. in Thyest.), and Bibulus in Coelo est, saith the orator (Cic. ad Attic.). The heathen rhetoric is but dull stuff to that in this Book; and indeed in this one chapter. A hypocrite’s head is oft above the clouds of heaven when his heart is beneath the clods of earth; like the eagle, which, when he soareth highest of all, even out of sight almost, hath his eye all the while upon his prey below. Or like the apricot tree, which shoots up and leans upon the wall, but is fast rooted in the earth. This whole allusion may be unto a tree, like that of Nebuchadnezzar, whose height was great, and reached unto heaven, Daniel 4:10-11 ; Daniel 4:22 . Or that of the Amorite, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks, Amos 2:9 .
Job 20:7 [Yet] he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where [is] he?
Ver. 7. Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung ] Than the which nothing is more filthy and detestable. See this exemplified in Herod, Haman, Boniface VIII, bloody Bonner buried in a muck hill, &c. The word rendered dung hath its denomination from rolling, because it is rolled out of doors, and swept out of sight. Many instances hereof might be given in the pristine and modern persecutors, punished with ignominious and disgraceful ends. Sisera and Jabin perished at Endor, and became as dung for the earth, Psalms 83:10 . Jehoram died undesired, Julian the apostate abhorred. God hath for such a besom of destruction, Isaiah 14:23 .
They which have seen him shall say, Where is he? ] They which have seen him with wonder shall now see him with horror, when they see him at such an under, such an ebb, such a dead low water. See this exemplified in that proud Chaldean, Isaiah 14:4 ; Isaiah 14:12 ; Isaiah 14:16 .
Tam subito casu, quae valuere, ruunt.
Job 20:8 He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.
Ver. 8. He shall fly away as a dream, &c. ] As a delightful dream is soon forgotten, so shall it be with the hypocrite. His felicity is merely imaginary, his joy is but as the commotion of the affections in a dream, which comes to nothing, Isaiah 29:7-8 . A man that is to be hanged next day may dream over night he shall be a king. A man that sleepeth upon a steep rock may dream of great possessions befallen him, and, starting for joy, may fall to the bottom, and mischieve himself. Psalms 73:20 , "As a dream when one awaketh, so, O Lord, when thou wakest, thou shalt despise their image"; that is, their painted pageant of outward pomp. Surely such of all men, walk in a vain show or in an image, Psalms 39:6 ; their seeming prosperity hath no tack or consistence in it, themselves and their money perish together, Acts 8:20 .
Yea, he shall be chased away ] By the displeasure of Almighty God, he shall be driven or rather kicked out of the world.
As a vision of the night ] Phasma, sire Phantasma, which passes sooner out of memory, and is more transient than a day vision.
Job 20:9 The eye also [which] saw him shall [see him] no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.
Ver. 9. The eye also which saw him shall see him no more ] He shall be utterly out of sight, out of mind; unkent, unkist, as the northern proverb hath it. See Job 7:8 ; Job 7:10 , where Job speaketh as much of himself, and Zophar here twits him with it, as if Sorex suo periisset indicio, Job were a hypocrite by his own confession; so ingenious is evil will.
Job 20:10 His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods.
Ver. 10. His children shall seek to please the poor ] Tenuiores sunt ipsis tenuibus, saith Junius; shall be poorer than the poorest, and full glad to comply with them, and humour them, to beg with them, if not to beg of them. A just hand of God upon oppressors, whose work it hath been to make many poor; and now their posterity are brought to extreme poverty. Such shame consult these men to their houses, besides their sin against their own souls, Habakkuk 2:10 . See Trapp on " Hab 2:10 " Some read it thus, The poor shall oppress his children; and how grievous that is, see Proverbs 28:3 . See Trapp on " Pro 28:3 " A heathen historian observed that Dionysius, after his death, paid dear for his sacrilege, in the disasters that befell his children (Val. lib. 1, cap. 2).
And his hands shall restore their goods ] Or, For his hands shall, &c. They should indeed restore their ill gotten goods, though to the impoverishing of their posterity, though they left their children no more but a wallet, to beg from door to door. But such are rare birds; most men will rather venture it than be drawn, Zacchaeus like, to make restitution. God must give them a vomit, as Job 20:20 , or they will lay up nothing; part they will not with those murdering morsels, that riches of iniquity Luk 16:9 they have devoured, but what they can nor will nor choose, as being compelled to do it either by law or force, either by justice or violence. The right owners do not always receive what was by wrench or wile gotten from them; but these oppressors or their imps are many times rooked or robbed by others as bad as themselves (as the usurious Jews are in this day by the injurious Papists, who use them as spunges, which they may squeeze at their pleasure); God so disposing and ordering the disorders of men to his own glory.
Job 20:11 His bones are full [of the sin] of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust.
Ver. 11. His bones are full of the sin of his youth ] Foul practices have so grown up together with some sinful people, that they may say of them as the strumpet Quartilla did of her virginity, that she could not remember that ever she had been a maid, Iunonem meam iratam habeam si unquam me meminerim Virginem (Petron.). "This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice," Jeremiah 22:21 . Then thou hadst no mind to it, but now thou hast less, thy heart being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:17 . Now in the froth of these youthful vanities unrepented of breedeth that worm of an evil conscience that never dieth. In the best, they procure much ruth grief , though not utter ruin. The sweet ways of my youth (saith a man afterwards eminent for holiness) did breed such worms in my soul as that my heavenly Father will have me yet a little while continue my bitter wormseed, because they cannot otherwise be killed. Thus he. Holy David prayeth hard, Psalms 25:7 , "Remember not against me the sins of my youth." Austin was much in the same suit. That age of man’s life is very subject to, and usually very full of, sin, yea, reproachful evils, Jeremiah 31:19 , fleshly lusts that war against the soul, 1 Peter 2:11 , and like so many noisome diseases, soak into the bones, and suck out the marrow, to the consumption and destruction of the whole man.
Which shall lie down with him in the dust ] That is, saith Vatablus, God will so forsake him, that he shall never repent, but shall die in his sins, which is worse than to die in prison or to die in a ditch; for they that die in sin shall rise in sin, and stand before Christ in sin; and how shall they be able to stand before him?
Job 20:12 Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, [though] he hide it under his tongue;
Ver. 12. Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth ] As poison swallowed in some pleasing meat or drink. Agrippina, in poisoning her husband, Claudius the emperor, tempered it in meat he most delighted in. Poison given in wine works more furiously, as did that wassail The liquor in which healths were drunk; esp. the spiced ale used in Twelfth-night and Christmas-eve celebrations. the monk drank to King John of England. That wickedness with a witness here meant is oppression, and is said to be held in the mouth, and hid under the tongue, as some think, because it is oft covered with godly speeches, whereby he seeketh to circumvent and deceive his neighbour. Others by these expressions will have understood continuance in sin and complacency therein, rolling it under his tongue, as a child doth a piece of sugar, which he is loth to part with, and retaining it a long time in his mouth, that he may taste it with more pleasure. Philoxenus wished his neck were as long as a crane’s, that he might the longer keep the taste of his sweetmeats and dainty morsels. Such is the wicked man’s wish, and his practice is answerable; for under his tongue is mischief and vanity, Psalms 10:7 . He licks his lips with the remembrance of his former sins, and so recommitteth them in his desires, at least, while he recalleth former acts with delight. Thus the rebellious Israelites called to mind the flesh-pots of Egypt, and were moved; and thus afterwards they multiplied their whoredoms by calling to remembrance the days of their youth, wherein they had gone a whoring in the land of Egypt, Ezekiel 23:21 .
Job 20:13 [Though] he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth:
Ver. 13. Though he spare it, and forsake it not ] This is the same in sense with the former verse, and the second time repeated, that Job might know that he was the man here meant; Ut qui in malis artibus sibi placuisset, saith Merlin, as one who took pleasure in raising himself upon another’s ruins. And another good note the same author giveth here, viz. That as anything is more sweet and delectable to the sensual appetite, so much the more should we suspect it, as fearing a snare laid for us therein, by that old manslayer. Vipera later in veprecula. Diabolus capite blanditur, ventre oblectat, cauda ligat. Divorce the flesh from the devil, and then there is no great danger.
But keep it still within his mouth ] And will not be drawn to spit it out by confession, and to carry it through the dung port of his mouth into the brook Kidron, which was the town ditch. Satan knows there is no way to purge the sick soul but upwards. He therefore laboureth to hold his lips close, that the soul may not unburden itself, and God come in with his cordials of comfort. See Trapp on " Job 20:12 "
Job 20:14 [Yet] his meat in his bowels is turned, [it is] the gall of asps within him.
Ver. 14. Yet his meat in his bowels is turned ] Sour sauce be hath at length to his sweet meats, viz. gripes and throbs of conscience, terrors and tortures inexpressible; a greedy vulture feeding upon his entrails (as the poets feigned of Prometheus), those furies or hell hags (so much mentioned by them), as haunting evildoers. In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare, Proverbs 29:6 . There is a cord to strangle his joys with, to mar his mirth. Did not Joseph’s brethren experiment with this? and Ahab, in his house of ivory? and Belshazzar, amidst his sensualities?
Principium dulce est, sed finis amoris amarus:
Laeta venire Venus, tristis abire solet.
The sinner’s cup of honey ends in the dregs of gall, even the gall of asps. Volupia and Angerona went yoked together among the Romans. If men would forecast the sad issues of sin, they would only strive to be innocent.
It is the gall of asps within him ] Gall of any sort is bitter, but that of asps is most poisonous and mortal. Pliny saith, that the poison of asps is nothing else but their gall. An asp is a kind of serpent, not known in these parts of the world. Aelian writeth, that the biting of an asp is incurable; and others say, that it killeth without remedy within four hours’ time. Unto this kind of poison is sin fitly compared; for when an asp stingeth a man, it doth first tickle him so as it maketh him laugh, then it casteth him into a sleep, till the poison gradually gets to the heart, after which it paineth him more than ever before it delighted him. So doth wickedness. It is a bitter sweet, γλυκυπικρον . Bernard compareth it to the itch, which first yieldeth pleasure, and afterwards smart. Austin saith, many devour that on earth which they must digest in hell, where they shall have punishment without pity, misery without mercy, sorrow without succour, mischief without measure, torments without end, and past imagination. When therefore thou art making a covenant with sin, say to thy soul, as Boaz said to his kinsman, Ruth 4:5 , What time thou buyest it, thou must have Ruth with it. So if thou wilt have the sweet of sin, thou must have the curse with it; and let thy soul answer, as he there doth, No, I may not do it, I shall mar and spoil a better inheritance.
Job 20:15 He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.
Ver. 15. He hath swallowed down riches ] As wild beasts do their prey, as the greater fishes do the lesser, greedily, easily, suddenly, irrecoverably, as the fire swalloweth up the fuel, as the lean kine devoured the fat, and as the Pamphagus glutton doth his tidbits, his sweet morsels. This word, hath swallowed, showeth his infinite and insatiable desire of getting and gathering riches; and that by continual gaping after more, he loseth the pleasure of what he hath already, like as a dog at his master’s table swalloweth the whole meat he casteth him without any pleasure, gaping still for the next morsel. He knoweth no other language but that of the horse leech’s daughter, Give, give; or that of greedy Esau, returning from the field, as hungry as a hunter, Genesis 25:30 , Feed me, I pray thee, or let me swallow at once (like as camels are fed by casting gobbets into their mouth) that red, red, &c. Gold is no better than red earth, and cannot terminate man’s appetite, Ecclesiastes 5:10 .
And he shall vomit them up again ] Either by remorse and restitution in the mean time, or by despair and impenitent horror hereafter; he shall vomit them up, and together with them his vital blood and spirits; he shall bring up his very heart withal, as Judas did, together with those thirty pieces of silver, Matthew 27:4 , all his bowels gushing out, Acts 1:18 . He thought to have digested his ill gotten goods, as the ostrich doth iron; but, pelican-like, he is forced to cast them up again, קאת Pelicanus a vomitu. (See Plin. l. 10, c. 30.) The large fish that swallowed Jonah found him hard meat, and, for his own ease, was forced to regurgitate. Think the same of this wretched mammonist. The Septuagint interpret the text when they thus render it, Wealth unjustly gathered shall be vomited up again, and an angel shall hale it out of his mouth. ( Graeci eleganter tropo explicato. ) An evil angel, say their interpreters; but the Hebrew verity referreth it to God, as an act of divine justice.
God shall cast them out of his belly ] As by a writ of ejectment, or rather, as by a violent purgation, that shall work both ways. Jeremiah 51:44 , "I will punish Bel in Babylon, and I will bring forth out of his mouth what he hath swallowed up"; viz. the wealth of the nations round about him. This God will rake out of his belly, so that a piece of his heart shall go with it. In the last destruction of Jerusalem some of the Jews had swallowed their gold, that the Roman soldiers might not have it; this was found out, and thereupon thousands of them were killed and ripped up for the gold that might be found in their stomachs and bowels. In like sort shall God deal with those covetous wretches, that have devoured the riches of iniquity; that have sucked in pestilential air, as Hosea 8:7 . See Trapp on " Hos 8:7 "
Job 20:16 He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper’s tongue shall slay him.
Ver. 16. He shall suck the poison of asps ] That lieth in his head, whence also it hath its name in the original. See Trapp on " Job 20:14 " Caput aspidis suger, saith the Vulgate. It is said of the toad that he hath in his head a stone of great virtue, called Bufonites. But the asp hath nothing in his head but strong poison. This the rich wretch shall suck, like as he was wont to suck the blood of the poor oppressed, to eat their flesh, Psalms 14:4 , and to eviscerate them.
The viper’s tongue shall slay him] Perinde cedet ei maleficium, saith Junius; his wickedness shall prove his bane, unless he presently take the antidote of repentance, whereby to expel the poison ere it get to the vitals. Repentance is the soul’s best vomit, the hardest, but wholesomest medicine. It is repentance unto life; whereas the sins of the impenitent are mortal, saith St John 1 John 5:17 , or rather immortal, as saith St Paul, Romans 2:5 . The hand that is here and elsewhere lifted up in threatening, Isaiah 26:11 , will fall down in punishing. "The wages of sin is death." When the barbarians saw the viper hanging on St Paul’s hand, they looked when he would fall down dead, Acts 28:4 ; Acts 28:6 . The devil’s design was there to have slain Paul, but he was defeated. And Brentius holdeth that the metaphor here used is taken not so much from serpents, whose venom lieth in their tongues, as from Satan, who, by the serpent in Paradise, cast our first parents into all kind of evils. Another there is who thus explains this text, Caput viperis suget. When vipers engender, the female sucketh the head of the male, and biteth it off with great delight; then she conceiveth her young ones, which eat out her belly. So the oppressor, getting the poor man’s goods, they seem sweet unto him, but at the last his sin findeth him out, for it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder, as Solomon saith of drunkenness (which Austin calleth dulce venenum, a sweet poison), Proverbs 23:32 .
Job 20:17 He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.
Ver. 17. He shall not see the rivers, the floods ] That is, that plenty and abundance of all good things that cometh in to the righteous, Velut confertim, certatim, et affatim, a confluence of all manner of comforts and contentments (Mercer). These the oppressor shall have none of; for being insatiable and vexed with the furies of an evil conscience, they enjoy not anything, though they abound with all things, being worse than tantalized; and if after his fall he seek to recruit himself, he shall never be able to effect it. He shall not see the rivers, &c. The Seventy, and others after them, render it by an elegant apostrophe, Ne, specter rivos, Let him never look after the rivers, &c., for it will never be. He may please himself in hope and expectation of a better condition, but God will surely cross him. For his hoped for riches he shall have poverty, for pleasure pain, for health sickness, for nourishment poison, for dignity disgrace, for the favour of God his wrath and hatred, for life destruction. A further account of the wicked man’s non-enjoyment of what he hath wrongfully wrested from others Zophar giveth us in the next verse.
Job 20:18 That which he laboured for shall he restore, and shall not swallow [it] down: according to [his] substance [shall] the restitution [be], and he shall not rejoice [therein].
Ver. 18. That which he laboured for shall he restore ] (Great pains he hath taken to small purpose) in hope to make himself happy, the result whereof is, Reddet laborem, he shall restore his labour, either by regret and remorse of conscience, or by law, or by force, he shall be made to restore his ill gotten goods, which he had laboured for, even to lassitude; for wicked men are sore worksmen, and oppressors are great pains takers, κερδαινοντες ου κοπιωσι , in getting wealth unweariable (Nazian.).
And shall not swallow it down ] Or if he do, as Job 20:15 , it shall be but as the fish swalloweth the hook, or as the whale swallowed Jonah, ill at ease till he had laid up again.
According to his substance shall the restitution be ] Heb. According to the substance of his exchange. Opes compensationis, the riches of his recompense, so the word is rendered, Job 15:31 . The oppressor is so infatuated, that he looks upon his cursed hoards as the reward of his labour, and rejoiceth in that whereof he hath more reason to repent, as Leah said at the birth of her son Issachar (but not well), "God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband," Genesis 30:18 . Felix scelus virtus vocatur. Dionysius gloried that the gods disliked not his sacrilege, because they punished him not presently. But what saith Zophar here?
He shall not rejoice therein ] Or if he do for a while, yet the triumphing of the wicked is short, Job 20:5 , as a blaze of thorns under a pot, or as a flash of lightning, which is followed by rending and roaring; he shall be filled with unmedicinable sorrows, when his gold (his god) is taken from him; when he parteth with that whereon he had set his heart and built his felicity.
Job 20:19 Because he hath oppressed [and] hath forsaken the poor; [because] he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not;
Ver. 19. Because he hath oppressed and forsaken the poor ]. Heb. Because he hath crushed or broken in pieces. The original word importeth (as one well observeth) tyrannical oppression without mercy or moderation, without ho or hold; some give full scope to their rage and wrath, they put neither bond nor bridle upon their covetousness and cruelty: such are characterized by this word.
And forsaken the poor ] Or, Left men poor; viz. by leaving them without a livelihood, and so as good as without life. A poor man in his house is like a snail in his shell; crush that, and you kill him. They which read it, And forsaken the poor, give us this good note, that as it is sinful to forsake the poor, though we have never oppressed them, Matthew 25:35-36 (not to do justice is injustice, not to show mercy is cruelty, Mar 3:4 ), so to oppress, and then forsake them, is far more sinful.
Because he hath violently taken away ] Violently and in open view, in an impudent manner. He pulleth down men’s houses, but never thinketh of repairing them; so some read this text. Let our depopulators look to it, who build themselves desolate places, and desire to live alone in the earth. This hath been noted as a great fault in our nation. And therefore Goropius thinketh that the English were called Angli because they were so good anglers, having skill to lay various baits when they fished for other men’s livings.
Job 20:20 Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired.
Ver. 20. Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly ] i.e. Peace in his conscience, satisfaction in his soul; but as he is still coveting more, being sick of a dropsy or bulimy, as it were; so he hath many inward gripings and grabbings, worse than any belly ache or sickness of the stomach; he never eateth to the satisfying of his soul, as the righteous man doth, but the belly of the wicked shall want, Proverbs 13:25 . His meat is so sauced, and his drink so spiced, with the wrath of God, that he hath no joy of it. His belly is pained, his mind is in perpetual turmoil, while, like a ship laden, but not filled up, he hath enough to sink him, but not enough to satisfy him.
He shall not save of that which he desired ] Which he coveted with strong desire, and had as soon have been knocked on the head as parted with, as his plate, wardrobe, jewels, &c., neither can he save them nor they him. Broughton rendereth, By that which he desired he shall not be safe; and to like purpose the Septuagint,
Job 20:21 There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods.
Ver. 21. There shall none of his meat be left ] Zophar still pursueth the allegory of the belly; and in all striketh at poor Job, who had scarce a bit of bread to eat, but yet was not without the hidden manna, the feast of a good conscience, which made him say with Luther, Manducato pane hic vivamus, &c., Let us take up with coarse fare here, since we have better within, and better yet we shall have in heaven; in our Father’s house is bread enough, &c.
Therefore no man shall look for his goods ] Heb. His goods, or goodness. It was well said, that he that first called riches Bona, goods, was a better husband than divine. But it may be thought that the most are such husbands. The common cry is, "Who will show us any good?" The Lord answereth, Exodus 33:19 , "I will make all my good pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee." The prophet answereth, Micah 6:8 , "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good," viz. to do justly; and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God. But most men are of his mind who said, He that will not venture his body will never be valiant, and he that will not venture his soul will never be rich (Nevessan). But what saith the prophet? He that getteth riches, and not by right, shall die a poor fool, Jeremiah 17:11 . And what saith Zophar here? He shall die a plain beggar, and leave no estate worth the looking after or suing for; this does not always happen, but ως επι το πολυ , many times it doth, as is easily to be observed.
Job 20:22 In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.
Ver. 22. In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits ] The covetous man never hath a sufficiency (but is as greedily gasping still after more, as if he were not worth a halfpenny), much less a fulness of sufficiency, a superfluity, a superabundance. Whatsoever Esau pretended in his, "I have enough, my brother," Genesis 33:9 , Jacob could indeed say truly, I have enough, Genesis 33:11 , for godliness only hath an autarchy, 1 Timothy 6:6 . True piety hath true plenty, and is never without a well contenting sufficiency, wherein the good man is, when in the fulness of straits. See it in David, 1 Samuel 30:6 , in Habakkuk, Habakkuk 3:16-17 , in Paul, 2Co 6:10 Philippians 4:11 , he had nothing, and yet possessed all things. But that which Zophar here drives at, is to show that the oppressor shall be ruined when at highest, and when he least looketh for it; as was Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Belshazzar, Babylon the Great, Revelation 18:7-8 . How was Alexander the Great surprised at a feast! Caesar in the senate house! many of the emperors in their own palaces! &c.
Every hand of the wicked shall come upon him ] Or, of the labourer, whose wages he hath detained. Or, of the poor oppressed, whom he hath forced to labour hard for a poor living. Broughton rendereth it, Each hand of the injured and grieved shall come upon him; and so he shall have many fists about his ears, many ready to rifle him and to pull a fleece from him.
Job 20:23 [When] he is about to fill his belly, [God] shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain [it] upon him while he is eating.
Ver. 23. When he is about to fill his belly ] It appeareth, by this expression, that it was belly timber wherein the wicked man placed his sufficiency, Job 20:22 , his felicity, Si ventri bene sit, si lateri, saith the Epicure in Horace. If the belly may be filled, the body fitted, that is all that these Lurcones, these profligates, look after. Polyphemus knew no other god but his belly. There were belly gods in St Paul’s time, such as of whom he could not speak with dry eyes, Philippians 3:18-19 . Such are compared by Clement of Alexandria to the sea ass, that hath his heart in his belly. By others to the locust, the belly whereof is said to be joined to his mouth, and to end at his tail; to the fish called Blax, that is altogether unprofitable; and to rats and mice, good for nothing but to devour victuals. When therefore such a pamphagus is about to fill his belly and to pamper his paunch, or otherwise to gorge himself with the full messes of sin’s dainties (as the viper lives on venomous things, the spider on aconite, the sow on swill, as Tartarians on carrion, holding them as dainty as other men do venison), then, saith Zophar,
God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him ] Heb. He shall send forth, &c. He will no longer keep in his judgments in the chains of mercy, but give them their full forth upon this wicked oppressor; and that even very then, when he bids his heart make merry, and assures himself of unchangeable happiness. For,
He shall rain it upon him (that is, reveal it from heaven against him, Rom 1:18 ) while he is eating] Matthew 24:38 . As it befell those cormorants, Numbers 11:33 , and the old world, Luk 17:26-27 Sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; Vel ut pluvia quae sereno coelo inopinantes opprimit. Or as foul weather that comes unsent for, and oft unlooked for. The Vulgate rendereth it, And he shall rain his war upon him. But this Zophar setteth forth in the next verse, where he denounceth war and weapons.
Job 20:24 He shall flee from the iron weapon, [and] the bow of steel shall strike him through.
Ver. 24. He shall flee from the iron weapon ] i.e. While he seeks to shun one mischief he shall fall into another; and when he thinks to run from death he runs to it. God, who can do what be will with his own bare hand, is here brought in, after the manner of men with sword and bow, to show that both at home and afar off he can tame his rebels. Neither boots it any man to stand out with God, or to seek to save himself by fight or flight; since he is that "King, against whom there is no rising up," Proverbs 30:31 , and if he be angry, no other helps can relieve us. Brass and iron can fence me against an arrow or a sword, but if I were to be cast into a furnace of fire, it would help to torment me, if into a pit of water, to sink me. Now our God is a consuming fire, and his breath a stream of brimstone, Isaiah 30:33 . "Submit yourselves therefore to God," James 4:7 . Humble yourselves therefore under his mighty hand, and ho shall lift you up in due season, 1 Peter 5:6 . To run in to God is the way to escape him; as to close and get in with him that would strike you doth avoid the blow.
And the bow of steel shall strike him through ] Or, shall change him; that is, kill him. Death is our great change, and to the wicked a dismal change; for they shall be killed with death, Revelation 2:23 . Then Balaam and his bribes, Balthasar and his bowls, Dives and his dishes, Herod and his harlots, the usurer and his bills, the merchant and his measures, &c., shall part asunder for ever. But that is not the worst of it. The word here used signifieth excision, or cutting off, and hence that of Bathsheba, Proverbs 31:8 , Beni chaloph, children of destruction, answerable to that of our Saviour, John 17:12 . A son or child of perdition, that is, a man devoted to utter destruction.
Job 20:25 It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall: terrors [are] upon him.
Ver. 25. It is drawn, and cometh out of the body ] That is, the arrow out of the quiver, or the sword out of the sheath, as the Vulgate translateth it. By a like metaphor the body is called the soul’s sheath, Daniel 7:15 . But I rather take it properly: It cometh out of his body that is, out of the wicked man’s body, who is under such a deep and deadly wound as Jehoram was, whom Jehu shot through the heart; and as William Rufus was by Walter Tyrrel, who in hunting mistook him for a deer.
Yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall ] And so the wound must needs be mortal, since none can come at the gall to cure it. The wicked shall be double slain (first with God’s bow, and then with his sword), rather than he shall escape. How much better were it to fall down as Paul did, Romans 7:11 , slain with the sword of the Spirit! Bernard told his brother, a soldier, that because he would not listen to the word of exhortation, God would shortly open a way to his hard heart by his glistering sword; which accordingly befell him.
Terrors are upon him ] Heb. The terrible upon him; which some interpret of devils or hell hags. The Vulgate rendereth it, Then horrible ones shall come upon him. The word is used for giants, Deuteronomy 2:10 . The Emims shall fall upon him, that is, men of fierce and cruel spirits. But better take it for terrors, as we render it; and so the sense is, That the wicked, when he sees he must needs die, is surprised with greatest anxieties and perplexities of spirit, as beholding that threefold dreadful spectacle, death, judgment, hell, and all to be passed through by his poor soul.
Job 20:26 All darkness [shall be] hid in his secret places: a fire not blown shall consume him; it shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle.
Ver. 26. All darkness shall be hid in his secret places ] That is, saith Diodati, wheresoever he shall think to find a place of safeguard there shall he meet with some horrible mischance. Men that are proscribed, and sought for to death, usually hide themselves, as various Jews did in privies at the last destruction of Jerusalem, and were thence drawn out to the slaughter. The duke of Buckingham, in Richard III’s time, was betrayed by his servant Bannister. Appian telleth of a Roman hid by his wife, and then exposed by his wife to the murderer, to whom she soon after also was married (De Bell. Civ. Rom.). Others render and sense the words thus, The wicked shall come into darkness, propter abscondita, for his secret sins. And others thus, All darkness is laid up for his hid treasures; that is, God or men have taken order that he shall lose his riches as well as his life, though he hide them never so secretly.
A fire not blown shall consume him ] i.e. say some, calamities whose causes shall be unknown, and shall proceed immediately from God. See Isaiah 30:33 . Many of the Greeks interpret this text of hell, with its unquenchable fire, Matthew 3:12 , which being created by God, and kindled by his breath, that is, by his word, it burneth everlastingly. Albeit God many times punisheth wicked men here with fire from heaven, as he did Sodom, Nadab and Abihu, those captains of fifties with their companies, 2Ki 1:9-12 Tremellius rendereth it thus, A fire consumeth him, non accensum flatis, I say him, not kindled by blowing, but burning of his own accord, as stubble fully dried, or hurds, or sear wood, Ut stipulae aut stupae. Ut cremium aut arefactum lignum. See Nahum 1:10 . See Trapp on " Nah 1:10 "
It shall go ill with him that is left ] His posterity shall never prosper, but be rooted out. Eliphaz and Bildad had said the same thing; and all to pay poor Job, whose family was now ruined. It shall surely go ill with him, or, He shall be wringed, saith Broughton; alluding to the likeness of the sound as well as the sense of the Hebrew word.
Job 20:27 The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him.
Ver. 27. The heaven shall reveal his iniquity ] Job had called heaven and earth to record his innocence, Job 16:19 . This is not to do now, saith Zophar, for all creatures have conspired thy ruin, and contributed thereunto, wind, fire, Sabeans, &c., so that he that hath but half an eye may see thee to be a wicked person. Such as are wicked indeed, not only secundum dici, as Job, but secundum esse, as Ahab, cannot look to heaven above, or to earth beneath, without horror to think even these, if other witnesses fail, shall bring to light their secret sins, and come to give testimony against them before the great Judge at the last day.
And the earth shall arise up against him ] Night will convert itself into noon against the evildoers; and silence prove a speaking evidence. Earth cried Cain guilty, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera as a traitor and rebel to the highest majesty; yea, Servi ut taceant iumenta loquentur, the ass hath a verdict to pass upon Balaam. A bird of the air shall carry the voice that but whispereth treason, Ecclesiastes 10:20 . Yea, if nothing else will reveal iniquity, it will reveal itself. It will prove like the ointment of the right hand, of which Solomon saith, that it bewrayeth itself, Proverbs 27:16 .
Job 20:28 The increase of his house shall depart, [and his goods] shall flow away in the day of his wrath.
Ver. 28. The increase of his house shall depart ] All his posterity shall be destroyed, and so shall his prosperity to, even all at once, with a sudden ebb, in the day that God visiteth him with his wrath and righteous judgments. All the wicked man’s wealth and revenue shall be wretchedly wasted and embezzled by one means or other.
And his goods shall flow away ] As waters. The apostle saith, The fashion of this world passeth away; viz. as a hasty headlong torrent; or as a picture drawn upon the ice: "Thou carriest them away" (both persons and things) "as with a flood," Psalms 90:5 .
Job 20:29 This [is] the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.
Ver. 29. This is the portion of a wicked man from God ] A portion God alloweth the wicked in this life, Psalms 17:14 ; as a king, when he reprieveth a traitor, alloweth him a subsistence, prisoner’s pittance at least. Yea, the worst of men divide the wealth and honours of the world between them for a time. Nebuchadnezzar had Tyre as pay for his pains in Egypt. And the whole Turkish empire is nothing else but a crust cast to his dogs by the great housekeeper of the world, saith Luther. But besides this, God hath provided a far other portion for them (saitb one), and that by way of inheritance, never to be parted from them; viz. all the forementioned miseries, and many more, all torments here, and tortures in hell. This is the inheritance, Quam nunquam deserere, non magis quam seipsos, poterunt, which will stick to them as close as the skin to the fesh or the flesh to the bones; it falls to them as the inheritance doth to the heir, Job 27:13 ; Job 31:2 , or as the mess of meat doth to the invited guest. Misery is the heritage of the wicked, as they are children of disobedience; and their wages, as they are workers of iniquity; their present prosperity also is a piece of their punishment, Isa 1:5 Proverbs 1:32 . The words of Zophar are ended. Let others reply as they please, but he hath done. Praestat herbam dare, quam turpiter pugnare. No surer sign of an evil cause than a powerless pertinace.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 20". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension